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I, the Presenter: The Making of TV History

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TV history attracts a lot of attention, and the historians in front of the camera sometimes become household names. Yet what is the role of the presenter in the collective effort of producing TV history? How much authorial control does the presenter have over the narrative that is produced? How does the need to fit into a visual narrative affect the historian intent on communicating a particular idea? What are the advantages of presenter-led TV over other formats, such as voice-over, docu-drama, or talking heads? This session explores the practice of presenter-led TV history, taking a look behind the scenes with two experienced history presenters:

Helen Castor studied for her BA and PhD at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and was elected to a Research Fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1993. In the following year she was appointed Director of Studies in History at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. She remains a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, but since 2002 she has concentrated on writing history for a broader readership. Her book Blood & Roses is a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, whose remarkable letters are the earliest surviving collection of private correspondence in the English language. Blood & Roses was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction in 2005, and was awarded the Beatrice White Prize (for outstanding scholarly work in the field of English Literature before 1590) by the English Association in 2006. Helen is a regular contributor to the books pages of the Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, TLS and THE . She is also one of the presenters of Radio 4′s Making History, broadcast on Tuesdays at 3 pm. She has appeared on Radio 4′s The Long View and Woman’s Hour, and in the United States on National Public Radio’s On Point. She made her debut as a presenter for BBC4 in August 2011 with a film entitled ‘A Renaissance Education: the schooling of Sir Thomas More’s Daughter’. This year, she has been fronting ‘She-Wolves’, a three-part BBC4 documentary series (produced by the independent producer Matchlight) based on her book She-Wolves. The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth (Faber & Faber, 2010). The book was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and BBC History Magazine.

David Heathcote is a freelance historian. His film ‘Components of the Scene’ is currently showing at the Venice Biennale as did his earlier film Bothar Bui made for the Irish pavilion. He has just been commissioned to write an architectural guide to South Yorkshire. He has curated exhibitions about The Barbican “This Was Tomorrow” at the Barbican art Galleries and The Shell County Guides at The Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture in London. He as written books on the Barbican, 70s Houses, 60s and 70s Interior design and, published this year, The Shell County Guides. He has acted as historical advisor for various television series about Design and has apppeared in his own programmes for the BBC about Guide Books and Art Deco ( last seen on Singapore Airlines!) He has worked occasionally as a style journalist (Wallpaper) and art critic ( Blueprint and Eye) and recently has contributed chapters to two catalogues of John Piper’s work and another on sustainable design in Berlin. He is a part time lecturer at the V&A, a tutor at the RCA and Middlesex University. He is currently writing a book, Autostrada Interstate, about the history of the Motorway for Thames and Hudson. He is also hoping to curate an exhibition and soundscape about psychedic posters for long forgotten bands at the Filmore East.

This talk is part of the Public and Popular History series.

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